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Working hard now so you can retire early, but your spouse isn't on board? Learn how you can encourage financial independence as a couple!
One of the things I have struggled the most over the years spent on the path to financial independence were social interactions.
When I was living in Paris, my friends’ definition of a good time was going to a bar and having $10 drinks. All night long. Several times a week.
They worked hard and didn’t know other ways to unwind. Plus we all lived in small apartments and that made socializing at home a bit complicated.
I eventually stopped seeing people I kind of liked, but not enough to cover a $50 bar tab every time we met. I made efforts to offer alternatives, such as meeting in a park, having a picnic by the river, walking around a new neighborhood,… it almost always ended in “now let’s go for drinks”.
Financial Independence as a Couple
But the relationships I struggled the most with were with my partners. They’d make fun of my frugal ways and tell me it was all useless in the grand scheme of things.
How could a few dollars give you financial independence? YOLO and let others YOLO.
I only dated one broke guy who sort of was into it, but mostly by necessity. The others just wanted to spend their cash on whatever shiny thing was put in front of them.
Encouraging Financial Independence
So how do you get your partner on board for financial independence? You have to realize two things:
- The path to FI is a LONG and arduous one. You have to be sure you really want it or it won’t work. Like a diet, you need to be committed and disciplined.
- A myriad of tensions in relationships originate with money. One is a spender, the other one a saver. One wants to go out and drink, the other one would rather max out the 401k. Embarking on such an extreme endeavor as financial independence can accentuate that if your partner is not ok with your goal.
You can’t pretend your significant other will magically come to the same conclusion about spending less than you earn you came to, right when you did.
And you can’t possibly expect them to support your efforts in frugality if they have no idea what the end goal is.
Time for a talk.
Try to explain everything like you would to a five year old. Layman’s terms make it easier for everyone.
When I did, I simply explained to my partner that for me, money was time.
Every day, I went into an office to trade my time for money. And if I kept that money, I could buy time down the road. So I would do my best to keep, save and invest that money, because a $50 bar tab means hundreds of dollars less in my retirement nest egg 40 years from now.
The last thing you want to do is criticize their habits, because in doing so, you criticize them. But you can point out that, like the bar tab, this or that expense probably does not bring them value to make it worth the cash outlay.
They can start by questioning the expense.
- Do I need that?
- How long am I ready to work to afford that?
- What am I trading my time and effort (turned money) for?
Most things we spend on are things we don’t think about. When I swipe my card at the supermarket, I don’t even remember the amount in the evening. After all, I can amply afford it and I need to eat.
Back in the pre-FI days, I would scan every line of the receipt, to make sure I had been correctly charged, and go back to claim any error back.
Nowadays, my excuse is that I value my time more. But I have simply turned lazy. That won’t impact my finances too much, but that can add up and postpone your FI date if you don’t keep your spending in check.
So making the decision, as a couple, to spend on this or that, to prioritize savings over little whims, but keep some fun money for what you truly value, will help you get on track to FI.
Show, Not Just Tell
If your partner is still reluctant, you can try to go at it on your own at first, to set an example.
Fund your 401k and Roth IRA, and show them how they grow over time. Pay off your student loans and other high interest debt as soon as possible.
Show your partner that because you have saved, you can now afford that (car, TV, holiday,…) without having to charge your card. Walk the walk and encourage them to join you.
Talk About Your Dreams Together
Ask them what they want out of life. The answer will probably not be “work in a cubicle for 40 years, find out my body is too old to enjoy life, go peacefully”.
It be having kids and staying home with them, going back to college and pursuing a passion career, getting a third bedroom, or visiting London.
If they say “become a hermit in the woods” you have found your perfect FI partner, but otherwise, they will be talking about things that cost money. Fantastic.
Now you can put a price on that dream. The $40,000 house upgrade. The $12,000 degree and $15,000 wage loss while you take time off to study. The $250,000 baby :). Everything has a price tag.
- How will you work it out?
- How soon would you like it to happen?
If the goal is agreeable to both of you, let’s start working towards it!
Remind Yourselves of Your Why
It will be much easier to convince your partner to embrace your frugal ways if there is a reward at the end of the tunnel.
You don’t go on a diet just because you like kale. You go on a diet to look good on the beach, to feel better about yourself, or to fit into that wedding dress.
Money works the same.
Sitting down with your partner and saying “If we buy this, it will delay our goal by a week or a month” now puts the expense into perspective. Do we really want to go down that path?
Patience and Understanding
Of course, you will also need to compromise. You can’t expect a spender to turn uber frugal overnight.
You will need to pick your battles, so you can set a limit of say $50, where they don’t need to ask for your approval to buy something, and then anything over it has to be validated by the both of you.
You can have a splurge night once a month, where you do something they like that costs money.
What we are trying to eliminate here is the mindless spending. It takes time.
One of my boyfriends used to always pick something at the store when he’d put gas on his car. A cookie, a chocolate bar,… so I went to the supermarket and bought a huge stack of treats, that cost about 70% less.
When we went to the gas station, he picked up a whole pie. I didn’t pick on it because we had way bigger issues to tackle, but I learned about acceptance and patience.
In the end, you can’t change people who are not willing to change.
You can only make them realize that if they care about a goal as much as they say they do, they need to change their habits to reach it sooner.
A projection chart or spreadsheet might come handy. Show them if they keep going the way they are going, they would have to work until age 75.
If they reduce their expenses by $X each month, they can shave 20 years off their freedom date.
Thoughts on Financial Independence as a Couple
Obviously, picking a frugal partner would be even easier, but you can’t control who you fall for, so be gentle and encouraging, and if that doesn’t work, remember the other million reasons why you love them so much!
This is a guest post from Pauline of InvestmentZen.